Wednesday, January 16I can't sleep, so I'll write. This has been rattling around in my head for a while now. Not sure if I'll expand on it, not sure what direction I want to take or what style. Seriously - this is a 3am post-drunk story posting, so we'll see how well it's received by you sober folk (and whether or not this is the "envelope pusher" that gets me a stiff talking-to.
My plane lands in Atlanta, Georgia, at 6am. It's a full day before the scheduled meet. A full day which I will use to acquaint myself with our meeting place - get a feel for the crowd, sample the wares, and leave a hefty tip on the table after I leave. A good tip always helps with rule 3, making sure that they remember you the next time you come in. It gives me a day to check into my hotel, and to make my rental SUV look more "professional." I have several large sheets of the adhesive-film stuff they use for window tinting, with a clear backing over the adhesive. Instant tinting, cut to fit. Take the obvious rent-a-plates off, replace them with official plates from my un-official home state. Pick up the rifle-case from the local postal service, now that TSA won't let me fly with them. Pull the spare-tire out, put it in the luggage, sneak it into the hotel. Replace with rifle-case.
First rule of being a hitman? Always be early. Rule 1.5 - stay rested.
I head for the bar.
Thursday, January 17
Woke up next to a stripper. Or a bartender. The cab-driver? Took an hour for Barbie to find her accessories before leaving the room. Ridiculous. I have a hangover, I eat a continental breakfast, and gorge myself like a true All-American.
It's all free. I determined that the client would most likely be able and willing to cover my room and board, since I was traveling so far to come and see him. Not only could he pay, but he was so generous as to allow me to choose where I would stay. I was fronted $826 to spend two nights in a comfortable room in one of the best hotels in town.
It's a sunny morning at 3pm in Atlanta. According to the weatherman it is only "sweltering" at 94 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm sweating liqueur and there's a double-keg party in my boxers right now. This is beyond sweltering. The current temperature is hovering somewhere between Hell, and the surface of the Sun.
The client, one 'Alex Miller', is a 'well off, middle-aged entrepreneur,' who is seeking someone with a background in 'conflict resolution' to help him resolve an 'extra marital affair.' According to his help-wanted ad, on Craigslist. In layman's terms, Alex is a 43 year old real estate agent who came home to find his third-wife, 29 year old Lisa Pratt-Miller in a rather compromising position - that is, with her old college flame somewhere in, on, or uncomfortably [for Mr. Miller] near her person. Mr Miller did what all rational, heartbroken men would do - and decided to post an ad in the ever-popular "classifieds" section of the internet, hoping that some honest gentleman who was not an officer of the law but who was also sociopathic to kill for money, would read it, decipher it, and "contact him discreetly". Alex Miller is a perfect client for someone like me. All he asks is that I meet expectations - that I look like the kind of professional that he is used to dealing with.
Rule number 2 of Hitting: understand your client
It's 94 degrees in Atlanta. And I'm wearing a suit.
Thursday, January 17 [later]
I'm sitting at the bar before Mr. Miller arrives. See rule number 1. This has given me time to remind Bartender Barbie who she woke up with this morning, who happily walked her to the door, flagged her a cab, and was even so polite as to give her money for coffee and a greasy breakfast sandwich at the Hangover Cure Cafe. This is what is enabling me to be here without any form of identification. The tab that I opened last night after Bartender Barbie closed up shop, cleared out the poolroom and one of the tables, is what's allowing me to drink without carrying cash or a credit card.
Rule number 3 of being a hitman: Never carry evidence - "Real You" and "Work You" don't mix. Except Barbie. Barbie was a necessary casualty.
The bar is filling up, but I can pick Alex out of the crowd with ease. Slumped shoulders, a briefcase laden with little more than a likely stack of A10 legals seeming to weigh down his entire right side like a strange post-stroke, pre-elderly Dick Clark. His suit isn't grey - more like an "off black". I would say the guy was a wreck, I'm sure all the stress of just having me here was taking it's toll. But this wasn't something I just walked in to. Nobody buys a pre-aged suit. Nobody with self respect wears a comb-over that makes Homer Simpson's dome look like a toupee. In different circumstances, I might sympathize with the guy's future former-wife.
He sees me, and that's good. I've met his expectations. I'm the conspicuous guy dressed for business in big-banking, with a perfect black suit, immaculate hair, nice watch, and a long coat hung over the chair. Afraid I might already be too intimidating for poor Alex, I push my beverage aside and order a pitcher of cheap tap-beer and two glasses before motioning him over. I'm not scary. I'm just a guy - just like him. But with kegs in my boxers. Damn this heat.
"Jacobs," he asks me, extending his hand. He's wants me to stand up? More importantly, was I Jacobs last night? Barbie doesn't seem to notice, remember, or care.
I reach my hand across without really looking, "Alex Miller?"
"You're a lot, um, younger than I thought you'd be."
"Yeah - and you're too fat to be a Stormtrooper" I retort, smiling a bit. Easy to infer a man's interests when his Facebook is filled with HanSolo tributes. He chuckles. Good icebreaker.
"So - is this where you wanna 'talk shop'?" Talk shop. Like a bullet in some 29 year old washed-out AAA Footballer's cranium is as routine to you as an oil change. Good try there Alex.
"Yeah, but first, you want a drink?" I've already poured him a glass and am pushing it towards him.
Alcohol is a great thing for the Hitman. It does two things - let's you know how much conviction or crazy someone holds, and if there's any blurring of the line, it gets them drunk enough to commit to one or the other. You see, the kinds of people who would call a hitman but turn down a drink, are probably crazy. I have nothing against religion. If the good books did their jobs, I wouldn't have to do mine. But when you meet someone who is so good that they'll swear off the drink but ask you to pick up a gun - they're probably crazy. If they're not crazy, then they're probably going to realize how far they're about to go and back down, no job for you. So to recap - if they don't back down, crazy. If they back down, waste of time. If they take the drink - good customer.
You can resume now. Actually, fast forward through 2 drinks and the depressing hilarity of Alex Miller, Realestate Agent, trying to feign interest in the NFL highlights on the bar's tv.
"So buddy - what actually happened with you and your wife?"
I'll spare you all the juicy, strangely precise details of his wife and her 'friends' relationship. More interestingly, the 49ers beat Green Bay 45-31, Colin Caepernick set a single-game league record for rushing. I've read all this (Alex, not the football) in the Craigslist ad already. I tune back in to catch -
"So, how did you end up with this job?"
Oh boy. This is like, when you grow up military, and you cringe every time a little kid asks some vet how many people they shot.
"It pays the bills." A nice, clean, euphemism. He's nodding and grinning sympathetically, no doubt imagining some Hollywood-style shootout involving my late father and twelve Filipino gang-bangers, and one orphaned child's sworn vengeance against all things malevolent and unwholesome. Like his adventurous wife. My childhood was nothing like that, by the way.
"Don't worry - I've got experience. Four years as a private contractor in the Middle East is the best on-the-job you'll ever get." Another lie. Another pseudo-scripted response from Alex, as he tries to contemplate an existence which far eclipses his boring life stamping papers and filing tax claims in the office.
He's fairly intoxicated now. As the level of alcohol in his bloodstream increases in an inverse relationship to the amount of Coors Lite in our pitcher, he begins raging against his wife and all women. I think he'd have me reduce Georgia to a state of Y-only Parking if he had the bankroll for it.
"So Alex, let's talk business." Kill shot.
"Oh, right, right. I guess I'm wasting your time here." I glance quietly but obviously at my watch - I have all the time in the world. He doesn't know that.
"We agreed on twenty-six thousand." Ultimately, the customer sets their own price. I've accepted jobs for less than a quarter of that price, but he wants a professional. The contract-killing industry in America grosses 2.5 Billion per year. Not much when you think about it - the average per suspected 'Hit' is about 2k. I'm making 13 times the national average. It's a good day to be Mr Jacobs.
"And as you know, I expect half of that, in cash, before I leave this bar tonight."
Rule number 4: Always get your pay up front. For security.
Alex slides his ratty briefcase across the footrail below the bar, trying to be secretive. It looks like footsies. I reach down and heft the case onto the bartop, and crack it open enough to see the bills.
"It's a bar, Mr. Miller. Not the set of 007." As I say this though, I open my jacket enough for him to see a shoulder holstered pistol, "I expect all of the money is here?"
He swallows hard, and nods. No backing out now.
"When umm..." he looks around, "when do you plan on doing your part?" he asks.
"You have his address in the briefcase?"
"Yes" he chokes out,
"I'll be back in touch within a week."
"And to make sure - you say that I'll be completely removed from any repercussions if this goes south?"
I make a point to turn my head, stare straight into Mr. Miller's childlike soul with the hardened eyes of a remorseless hired gun, "This won't 'Go South,' Mr. Miller. If anything happens on my end, and I assure that it won't, nothing will happen to you - as long as you can keep quiet. And if you try to back out, let me remind you that placing a contract on someone's life is a capital offense. This isn't something that I would take to the police, if you understand." Commandingly, I click the case shut and call for Barbie to close my tab. Standing up, I shake Mr. Miller's hand, wish him good night, and walk out into the slightly less ludicrous Atlanta night air.
Friday, January 18 [1:15am]
In the parking lot, I sit down in my car, thirteen thousand dollars richer, and look at all the wasted time on tinted windows. He didn't even want to see the truck. Good - he was more impressed by the show inside. I drive to the hotel, strip off the sweat-soaked suit, and fall into the cool sheets of my bed. I pick up the hotel phone and dial the same number that I've dialed every night on the road for the past 4 years.
"Everything went fine, the meeting was great. Yep - the brass really liked my pitch."
"I know sweetheart, I miss you too. I'm sorry they make me travel all the time."
"My plane leaves first thing tomorrow morning. I'll be back in time to take you out to lunch, and we can see a movie later if you want."
"Okay. Goodnight. I love you too."
I close my eyes and go to sleep. The pillow smells like Bartender Barbie, but I'm thinking Barnum Bailey-
"A sucker is born every minute."
Oh yeah, rule number 5 of being a Hitman - never actually be a hitman.